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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dr. Julie Talks Exercise for Your Dog

by Dr. Julie Buzby

Exercise is Good for All
It’s been the coldest winter in 100 years in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, my home.  This has curbed much of our family’s normal outdoor activity, including long walks for our dog.  I bought him his first coat, but he’s as eager as we are to get back inside on these bitter days.  Consequently, I’ve noticed a subtle change in his muscle tone and his behavior tending toward neurotic.  I know it’s because he’s not expending enough energy on our walks!

Exercise is essential for the wellbeing of our dogs.  Physical activity helps our pets maintain a healthy body weight and muscle mass, reduces their risk of certain diseases, and is vital to psychologic wellbeing. 

Exercise Enhances Bonding
We’re in the middle of a series of articles on helping your dog live a long, healthy life.  Exercise may be a reasonable substitute for the Fountain Of Youth!  A 2012 study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute found that exercise had a stronger correlation to life expectancy than body weight.  Further, whether a person was of normal body weight, overweight, or obese, increased physical activity added years of life.  Though more physical activity generally corresponded to a longer life expectancy, even modest amount of exercises were proven to pay dividends in health and longevity.

Although this research was done in humans, it should encourage us to stop making excuses and provide opportunities for our pets to move!   An exercise program should be tailored specifically to your dog, taking into account breed, age, physical condition and health status, as well as your own lifestyle. 

Start slow and slowly work up to higher levels of activity as exercise tolerance improves.  Unless your dog has medical restrictions, he should be able to tolerate 20 minute leash walks at least 5 days a week, working up to one hour walks.  Other options for activity include swimming, retrieval play, jogging, and biking.  Beware of “weekend warrior” activity, which commonly leads to unfit dogs overdoing it and suffering injuries.

I’m a huge believer in the old adage “Use it or lose it.”  Be inspired knowing that wherever you and your dog are on the fitness spectrum, you’re likely to extend your lives together through exercise.  A consistent exercise plan will positively impact your dog’s quality and quantity of life!  In fact, as research has shown, it’s good for both ends of the leash!

Dr. Julie Buzby is a homeschooling mom of seven, American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and International Veterinary Acupuncture Society certified holistic veterinarian, and passionate advocate for canine mobility.In her free time she serves on the Advisory Board for The Grey Muzzle Organization. She can be found at Twitter @DrBuzby and on You'll also find more of Dr. Julie's posts at our Ask the Vet Archives page.

Here are a few of her articles that may be of interest:
Dr. Julie's opinion or advice does not replace an actual exam with a veterinarian.

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DawgBlogger said...

And it's not only good for the body, it's also good for the brain.

Mark Jenner said...

After an article I wrote on how much exercise a Labrador needs, I finished with: "Think of it like this: You have the best exercise machine to rival that of any gym to keep you fit and healthy yourself." :-)

In my life, as I work full time in tech support, I sit in front of a computer all day then come home and sit in front of a PC writing, doing social media, watching too much TV. It is soooo easy to go a day without any form of exercise...if it wasn't for my Monty! (my black Lab.)

He makes it so I MUST get up and get out for if I don't I know it's depriving him of a fulfilling life...and if I don't he will soon let me know about it bouncing around the house like a coiled spring! Sometimes I feel 'Oh, I can't be bothered today', but ecery time after a decent walk and jog I think (and feel) 'Oh, I'm so glad I did' :-)

Exercise makes you feel so much better!

Dawn said...

We haven't let winter snow stop us from getting exercise. I still walk Maya and Pierson. They love walking so much that they actually didn't mind the Pawz shoes.

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

@Dawn: We'll be in Denver for a family event soon, and Oliver will experience his first snow. I'm not going for the booties. I think I'll backpack him when it gets deep so I don't lose him! Besides, with his small size (10 lbs), I worry about his body temperature getting too low. We have a couple of warm sweaters and a jacket, but they are probably not up to speed for Denver weather. I'll likely be carrying him in the backpack with a blanket to stay warm. Do I sound like an overprotective mom?

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